I received a shot of intravenous pain relief every 30 minutes. This was effective for 20 minutes, leaving a shortfall of 10 minutes. 10 minutes of agony.
A side effect of the drugs was suppressed inhibitions. I was uncharacteristically demanding. My language was fruity. As the effect of the Morphine wore off, and the pain kicked in, I began yelling at the nurses. ‘Get me some more fucking pain killers!’ ‘Get me some more fucking pain killers!’ Over and over again.
Each time the nurses patiently explained, the maximum safe dosage was every 30 minutes. I’d have to wait. I was placated for a few minutes. Then I’d start yelling again. ‘Get me some more fucking pain killers!’
My mother was in the corridor outside, talking with the ward sister, Sister Bullock. As I screamed expletives at the nursing staff, my mother, through her tears, apologised on my behalf. ‘He doesn’t usually swear. I’ve never heard him speak like this before’. Sister Bullock smiled kindly. ‘He won’t remember any of this’ she said. Sister Bullock had seen it all before.
My mother hated swearing. She’d heard me say the F word only once before, when I was 10 years old. I told the boy from the house next door to ‘fuck off’. As the words left my lips I knew I’d made a mistake. My mother was in the kitchen washing the dishes. The window was open. She threw open the back door, furious. ‘Come here!’ she said, teeth clenched. She grabbed me by the collar, pulling me into the house to the sink in the kitchen. ‘Stay there!’ she ordered. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’ I wailed. ‘It’s too late for that’. I was really in for it this time. She rubbed the dish cloth with soap. When she’d achieved a good lather she forced it into my mouth for a few seconds. ‘Don’t you ever, ever say that word again!’ she said.
This time, at the hospital, she was more forgiving.
On arrival in Emergency my clothes were cut off with big scissors (they were returned to me later in a plastic bag, shredded). My injuries were assessed. I was taken for the first of several surgeries.
Both of my legs were broken. The left leg had a hairline fracture below the knee. The injuries to my right leg were much more serious. The femur (thigh bone) and ankle were broken. The leg needed skeletal traction. A hole was drilled through my shin to hold a thick metal pin. The thread in the middle of the pin held it firmly inside the bone. The ends sticking out from either side of my leg. Weights were hung over the bottom of the bed and attached to the ends of the pin with a cable. This pulled the leg downwards, holding the ends of the broken bone in position as they knitted together. My ankle was put in a cast extending up to my knee, leaving holes for the ends of the pins.
Waking up after this surgery is my first memory of hospital. My mother leaned over the bed, talking to me quietly. ‘You’ve had an accident Pete. You’re in the hospital. I’m here. Your dad’s here. Fred’s here’.
‘I’m sorry Mam… but it wasn’t my fault’ I said. I wasn’t sure what had happened but I knew I’d done nothing wrong. ‘I know. I know. It’s alright’ she whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks.
I was in a private room receiving round-the-clock intensive care. When my parents went home to rest a male nurse stayed with me. Monitoring my condition, in case I deteriorated. He did his best to lift my spirits. We spent the time talking about school, favourite music, my friends, my injuries.
I’d been in the hospital for a day or two when my mother whispered ‘Pete, are you awake?’ She wanted to tell me that my brother was coming to visit. ‘Pete, Mark’s coming to see you. He’s in the middle of his exams at university so he can only come for a few hours. Then he’ll have to catch the train back to Sheffield to study. He wanted to come and see you though. He’ll be here this afternoon’. I didn’t open my eyes. ‘Whoopee do’ I said, sarcastically.
Broken bones in my upper and lower right arm were fixed with metal plates and screws. Later, the medical staff couldn’t find a pulse in the arm. The cause was a ruptured artery in my right shoulder. Another surgery. The surgeon, Mr King, sawed through my collarbone to insert a plastic tube into the damaged area. More screws and another metal plate were used to repair the collarbone.
During the first weeks in hospital I didn’t think about the long term implications of my injuries. All I could do was cope with the immediate aftermath. Not just the physical pain but the shock too. The world of a 16-year-old schoolboy had suddenly disappeared. Everything was alien. My life had been O level exams, my new moped and sneaking into pubs underage. Now it was surgeries, hospital smells, physical pain and the distress of seeing my parents helplessly watch me suffer.
After the surgery the arm was in a sling, covered in thick dressings, and strapped across my chest. The focus of the medical staff seemed to be my right leg, suspended above the bed by the traction paraphernalia. I wasn’t aware there was growing concern about the damage to my right arm. It may be worse than first thought.